Northeastern India, Pala Period, ca. 12th century CE. A finely carved black stone stele depicting the deity Parvati, goddess of love and family adored for her assistance in marriage, fertility, and parenting. She is the daughter of king Himavan and Queen Mena, consort of Shiva, and mother to Ganesha and Kartikeya. In addition, the Puranas describe her as sister to Lord Vishnu and river goddess Ganga. She appears in many manifestations, sometimes as Durga or Kali with eight or ten arms. Here she presents eight arms which are indicators of her divine nature that carry symbolic implements (such as a flame, a mirror - a symbol associated with Shiva and a sign of wisdom and the emptiness of worldly matters, a flute, a pomegranate symbolizing fertility, an axe, and a scroll that may refer to the Puranas). The goddess stands upon a lotus pedestal carried by a pair of peahens with floral blossoms in their mouths. See more about this iconography below. Size: 17.625" W x 24.5" H (44.8 cm x 62.2 cm); 27.125" H (68.9 cm) on included custom stand.
Kapaleswarar Temple, one of the most famous in Chennai, is located in what is today known as Mylapore (Mayilapur) which means "City of the Peacock." A legend of the Puranas (sacred Sanskrit writings) tells of Parvati's association with the peacock. According to the story, when Lord Shiva was attempting to impart his pearls of wisdom to Parvati, she was suddenly distracted by a peacock. Upset by this, Shiva cursed her and ordered her to take birth as a peahen, declaring that he would later join her after she worshipped him in the form of Shiva Lingham under a Punnai tree. It took years and years of searching, but the peahen finally discovered a Shiva Lingham in Mylapore. Upon finding Shiva Lingham, Parvati (as a peahen) worshipped Lord Shiva, carrying floral blossoms to him in her beak. At once, Lord Shiva then reunited with Parvati.
Carved from black basalt, a stone that was popular among sculptors during the Pala and Sena periods in northeastern India and in what is now Bangladesh, this stele most likely once occupied a niche within a temple to served as a focus of worship.
A black stone stele created during the Pala Period and depicting Vishnu sold for $47,500 at Christie's New York (Sale 14484, lot 616) on September 13, 2017.
Provenance: ex-collection of Medill Sarkisian, Sarkisian Gallery, Denver, Colorado, USA, since about 1950
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